Friday, March 8, 2013

Stoker Movie Review - Provocative and Twisted yet Painfully Satisfying

In Stoker, we witness the death of India's father and how all of a sudden, her uncle, who she doesn't know of, comes into the picture. However, whoever knew the truth about her uncle and tried to get in the way of his relationship with India, dies.

Stoker is the American directorial debut of famed Asian director Park Chan Wook whose most notable movie is Old Boy. It was interesting to see how a director known for his style and movies that are filled to the brim with personality play out in front of a different audience.

In this case, Stoker was a great debut movie for probably the widest consumers of cinema but it still has its own faults probably brought about by a disconnect in culture and technique.

Stoker's narrative isn't its strong point. It does give some great insight into the twistedness and ingenuity in Park Chan Wook's mind but it ultimately falters at some points due to the many conventional plot points which took me out of the experience more than I would have liked throughout the movie. I have read elsewhere theories of supernatural hearing which of course is most likely not the case but is a manifestation of the narrative's shortcomings. In classic cliched fashion, characters had a sense of where each member of the family was despite long distances between them. They show up at the most conventional times I couldn't help but rest my head on my hands at some points.

Weirdly enough, she looks like Pocahontas.

We also have India's uncanny responses to events happening in the movie. For example, as India opens the freezer they have in a very dark and creepy basement I presume, she sees her frozen grandmother staring directly at her, lifeless. She doesn't scream or tell others. We just see her in school the next scene almost as if nothing had happened. But I have to say there were some scenes were I was just at the edge of my seat, mouth agape as the directing and the acting shined through.

I am definitely not messing with anyone with a piercing stare like that.
The acting in this case is what kept the movie safely afloat. India, her mother(played by Nicole Kidman) and her uncle(played by Matthew Goode) gave outstanding performances. Indie in particular played her weird and detached teenager roles quite perfectly given the almost silly kind of character she is. Nicole Kidman had one memorable scene regarding why people have children. The moment she told India that what she wanted for her was the opposite of the inspiring monologue she just gave was bone chilling. But in the end, it was Matthew Goode who stealed the show as India's uncle, Charlie. Charlie exuded a chilling and sinister aura rarely scene in villains who aren't openly psychopaths. Goode clearly tuned in to the nature of the persona he was playing and delivered on all fronts. The way he looks at Indie and her mother were some of the creepiest moments in the movie.

The directing too was incredible. It felt almost like a music video especially in the opening sequences. It flowed really well and it simply grabs you from the beginning and never lets you go until the ending credits. It had some very unconventional cinematography and there was no static shot to really talk about. It was all very dynamic and overall very involving because of this. I would like to commend the cinematographer and editor on this one for their work on Stoker was amazing.

He isn't what he appears to be.

The ending was for the most part satisfying. It made sense in the context of the movie despite it being a little fantastical or bizzarre. It was mellow but tense and I basically went out of the movie house believing that I watched a great movie. No, more like a really great movie.


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